The NCR hits a new low.
Before we begin what is going to be a brutal evisceration of a deeply confused essay, we need a few points as a preface.
The literary form of this piece is "protest". The substance "groveling". You’ll see why.
A note about the writer, Jamie Manson.
If you look on the NCR bio, you get a little information. If you look on Jamie’s own site you get this. This is what she is proud of. My emphases and comments:
Jamie Manson received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, [Ah yes… the coveted MDiv from a protestant/secular school.] where she studied theology, spirituality, and sexual ethics. [Are we getting the picture?]
She most recently served as the Director of Social Justice Ministries at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York City where she ministered to the needs of Manhattan’s poor and homeless populations. Previous to this work, Jamie was the Pastoral Associate and Director of Faith Formation at St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan. [St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan… right a bell? This is the notoriously homosexualist parish recently in the news.]
Jamie began her career as Director of Publications at Yale Divinity School where she relaunched the School’s magazine Reflections and served as its editor-in-chief.
She writes a monthly column for the National Catholic Reporter, addressing the plight of the poor, the future of the Church, issues of gender and sexual orientation, [Are we getting the picture?] and ways of finding God’s presence in our everyday lives.
Jamie is a board member of the Women’s Ordination Conference, [There’s a surprise.] and, for the past five years, she has offered college courses, workshops, and retreats on spirituality, relationships, and sexuality. She is also a member of Spiritual Directors International.
Okay, there is some of Jamie’s background. This is helpful to understand why NCFishwrap thinks she is a good spokesman and what she is trying to achieve.
I want to draw your attention especially to the following points.
- She compares the new norms concerning graviora delicta ("more serious crimes") to the killing of baby girls in China, burning of widows in India, and trafficking of women for sex in Colombia. It takes a special sort of hysterical imagination to do that.
- She misunderstands the point of the new norms. A fruit of her protestant formation?
- She hates the "institution", the Church, while nevertheless begging it for affirmation.
How does she proceed? Watch how Jamie sets up pairs of terms with the purpose of demeaning and marginalizing one of them.
Here are some:
- female – male
- church – institution
- service – power
and probably as a subtext
- queer – straight
What is Jamie’s essay about in a nutshell? Look toward the center of the piece and you find repeatedly the word "power".
Let’s do the autopsy with my usual emphases and comments.
New norms are much more than a PR disaster
by Jamie L Manson
In reading about the Vatican’s calling clergy sexual abuse and the ordination of women equally [no] delectia gavioria (or grave sins), [No, Jamie. It’s delicta. Spelling error? I doubt it. Also, the Holy See explicitly stated that abuse of children and ordination of women are not being equated. She either didn’t read that and is therefore poorly prepared to write, she read it and didn’t understand it, and it therefore not capable of writing this, or she read it and is telling a purposeful falsehood. Anyway you look at it, from the first sentence she is making serious errors.] I was struck by how many commentators reduced this incident to yet another public relations disaster for the Roman Catholic church.
For women across the globe, it is so much more than this. It is a statement of profound spiritual violence [Blah blah blah… this is the tired old language of ’80’s Dworkin feminism where everything is violence against women.] against half of the human race already routinely victimized on the basis of their God-given anatomy. [But this next bit is over the top. No sane person goes here unless they are filled with hate and rage.] In a world where 39,000 baby girls die in China annually because they do not receive medical care equal to male infants, brides in India are burned once every two hours, and 35,000 Colombian women are trafficked to the sex trade every year, the church’s [always small "c"] statements only reinforce the idea that female bodies are not of equal value in the eyes of God, that they do not hold the same potential to be a sacred vessel of the life of God in our world. [Neither the norms nor the Church’s definitive teachings do anything of the kind. It could be that the writer is working out her own problems.]
At the same time that the Vatican freed bishops from being accountable for criminal activity (by failing to order them to report every instance of abuse and refusing to create sanctions against those who cover up abuse), [This is a canard. The Vatican doesn’t have a law enforcement arm. Also, the new norms are explicitly applied to bishops, cardinals, patriarchs, etc. But look at this howling error in the next part….] it saw fit to define new kinds of crimes that have everything to do with gender, but nothing to do with sexual abuse. [Did she read the new norms? They are explicitly about defending the sanctity of sacraments. The graviora delicta which are treated in the revised norms deal with sexual abuse of children by clerics because there are sacraments involved (Holy Orders always and sometimes Penance. They cover the attempted ordination of women because a sacrament is involved.]
Women, and those who attempt to ordain them, were classified as committing crimes against the sacraments. [Ahhhh… she gets something right.] Such crimes are metaphysically serious in that they constitute any action that desecrates the Eucharist. [Nooo… the issue of woman’s ordination is about the sacrament of Holy Orders.] Not only can God not work through the body of a woman, now, it seems, women’s bodies actually defile the Eucharist. [That’s just plain stupid.]
For many women living in the West, where the Roman Catholic church’s moral authority holds far less power than do the opinions of Oprah, [For Jamie it is all about power.] these latest pronouncements are little more than the institutional church’s reassertion of fundamental fear of female power and its antiquated belief that the female body is incapable of realizing the power of God. [Power Power Power. Violence and Power. But note what she did. She is setting up a pair of terms. There is institution and there is church. Institution is "Roman Catholic" or "Catholic church". She will soon begin to describe what she sees as church. She does this to demean and marginalize the institution, which is the Catholic Church.]
But for those women struggling to worship or work in the Catholic church, [Not all are struggling. Some are pretty happy. But, no doubt, they are unknowing victims of violence, what her paradigm Dworkin would call "domesticated" women.] these latest norms demonstrate unequivocally [norms she doesn’t understand, btw] a painful truth: The church can be, and often is, a very toxic place for women. [There it is: institution is baaad.]
This latest act of codified violence against women [as she continues to channel her Dworkin-feminism. But she is getting to a key moment. Read on if you still have the stomach for it.] leads me to ask: Why shouldn’t Catholic women allow God to act to God’s fullest potential in them? [There is the opposition of female-male. But it gets better and the irony will not be lost on you later on.] Why shouldn’t they seek ordination or create lay-led eucharistic communities that will truly nurture anyone who seeks the peace, community, sacramental nourishment, and social justice that is sorely lacking both in our society and in our church? [A couple things here. She is setting up her sort of "church" over and against "institution". But note that juxtaposition of "seek ordination" and "lay-led". Okay, Jamie, let’s see what this is about. What’s it going to be in your "church"? Is your "church" a "eucharist community" where lay people lead? Where the ordained lead? Which is it? What is ordination? Is it some sort of institutional affirmation of a pre-existing innate ability? Does ordination confer something special?]
There is a long-held belief among many members of the Catholic reform movement [that’s not a vague chain of terms…] that change can only come by working from within the Roman Catholic institution. [There’s that institution again.] Breakaway groups that ordain women, like Spiritus Christi, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, and Roman Catholic Womenpriests, though respected by many reformers, have a compromised view in the eyes of some because they did not "stay in the church and fight." I know many liberal Catholics who will occasionally attend Masses led by ordained Catholic women, but, whether out of fear or love of their particular parish, continue to also attend a local Roman Catholic parish Mass so as not to break away completely from the institution. [That’s not what Jamie wants. Jamie wants them to break away from the institution. Remember, institution is baaad.]
But, really, what do women have to lose at this point? In the Roman Catholic church, [bad male homophobic institution] they have no status and no potential to work in a church environment that will courageously and creatively supportive their callings to and gifts for ministry. [A canard. Women have been in "ministry" from the beginning of the Church.] Unless their jobs or livelihoods depend on at least appearing to keep within the fold, what is the real risk? As a young adult grappling to understand the future of the church — and my own role in it — the benefits of the emergence of new kinds of smaller, alternative eucharistic communities seem to far outweigh any risk. [Jamie’s eucharistic communities (what ever they are) v. institution.]
Such communities, I believe, will be a vital remedy for the aching need for communal support and spiritual nurture that will define new generations of women and men. [Lots of buzz words there.] These new forms of Catholic communities would be uniquely positioned [Now watch this!] to convey the best parts of the Catholic tradition, those fundamental beliefs — in ritual and sacrament, mysticism and spirituality, the preferential option for the poor and the pursuit of social justice — that keep them calling themselves Catholic. ["fundamental beliefs"… not much there about what we have considered Tradition from the beginning. This is "call a new church into being" time. They want the best parts of tradition. Who determines what the best parts are? Not an institution, of course. Everyone would be able to determine what are, for themselves, the best parts.] They would also teach the next generation that they do not need to participate in their own oppression in order to be a member of a church community. [eucharistic community v. institution] These communities can begin to model now what may very well be the life-giving future of the church. [But not to the Catholic Church. Some other church.]
Women who are interested in using their bodies [ho hum] to allow God [This is the second time she has used this "allow God" thing.] to continue to build up the body of Christ only need to consider the extraordinary, sacramental work that has been done and can be done outside of the walls of an institution [sacramental but not in the institution] bent on fortifying its spiritually violent, [Feel the dark-side. Use that anger, Jamie.] paranoid and medieval structure. As they gather together in community, [bzzzz But, she is now making an appeal to break with the Catholic Church…. ] one of their first orders of business may be to reach out to the women in developing countries who do not have even a modicum of the privilege and power held by many women in the West. They must use their money and their influence to help free these women from the poverty to which they are enslaved. [Actually, this sounds to me like "Let’s find uneducated and desperate women we can exploit, we can use to swell our already inflated numbers."] And they must reach out to those places where the institutional church’s oppressive stances on women only support the social and cultural beliefs that subject women to so much abuse, violence and exploitation. [Uh huh. Okay… let’s drill for a moment. Imagine some international gathering of these former victims of patriarchal violence who are now freed from the institutional oppression to allow God to work in their bodies. I know.. I know…. Any way, picture this big gathering. They have their pep rallies and their talks. They are being liberated from the violence. Moved by Spirit/Gaia they are inspired to be church and have eucharist. Who will preside? Will she be white? Black? It won’t be a male. Isn’t that marginalization of males who also should allow God to work through their bodies? No. Who should preside? You can bet the entire contents of your wallet that they won’t draw lots and leave it to chance. As they discuss who will preside, looks are shot around the room. Tensions build. How do they decide? Will it be the one who has the most NCR articles? Who has more education? What about seniority? Should newcomers be excluded from presiding because they haven’t put in the time to reach the top of this spirit-filled heap? What we see, inevitably, is an institutionalization of the very thing she wants to free from institutionalization. Replace one she doesn’t like, with another that is in her image (read her bio again now). Who will lead their eucharist there at the hotel conference center? It won’t be a straight male ordained priest.]
The Vatican’s new norms are only proof that movements that empower women to answer God’s call are being perceived as viable threats to an institution desperate not to lose control over people who are too educated and faithful to be controlled. [Yah… tens of women are feeling the power by now. But watch for the error in the next sentence…] By claiming that the ordination of women is a grave sin against the Eucharist, [Noooo…. it is against Holy Orders, a whole other Sacrament.] they have continued their legacy of perpetuating spiritual violence against women. [What ’60’s -’80’s song would go well with this. What about that Nancy Sinatra, "One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!" They just want to change the institution for the sake of their own power.] But the graver sin has been committed against God.
It is the human institution [read: the Catholic Church. Jamie is protestant.] that believes it can control and regulate how and where God chooses to become fully present that truly commits a sin against the Eucharist. [Aside from the error (the Catholic Church is of divine institution with human members), consider what she is saying. First, the Church doesn’t say it controls where God can chose to act. That would be daft. She, however, is saying that they can control how God acts by saying that they can ordain women and have "eucharist" apart from the Church Christ founded. They can chose the "best parts" of Tradition which is a matter of revelation. And now look at her "eucharistic theology"] Like the meal Jesus celebrated with his disciples, [No mention of sacrifice. It’s "meal". No mention of Apostles. Just "disciples"] the Eucharist always rises out of the people. [Sorry, the Eucharist did not rise out of the people at the "meal" Jesus had with his disciples. It came from Jesus and not from them. Christ is Lord in the Eucharist, not the people. Now we get a better idea, I think, of that strange language about "allowing God to work in their bodies", and so forth. It sounds like they are reducing eucharist to something like theurgy or even magic. But no feminist who works has a career in working with gender-issues would ever have anything to do with that.] Women who feel called by God must be, in even greater and more creative ways, a living, ministering reminder that the Eucharist is present anywhere that the people of God gather to live the teachings of the Gospels and to honor the life of God in all of creation. [Yah. It lacked only that pantheistic touch.]
[Jamie Manson is a lay minister who has worked extensively with New York City’s homeless and poor populations.] [And that, together with her coveted MDivi gives her credentials that by far outstrip the violence driven male hierarchy over the last 2000 years.]
Return to a few points with me.
She compares the Catholic Church to China where girl babies are killed, Colombia where women are trafficked, and India where widows are burned. That is sheer nutty hysteria.
She puts the issue of power in the center of her piece, nearly the word-count center.
She sets up a conflict between the Catholic Church (institution) and her eucharistic communities.
She calls for ordination.
While this is supposed to be a long protest, it is actually an exercise in begging the very institution she is resisting to affirm her.
The very institution she sets out to marginalize and belittle, is where she is seeking approval. She wants to have the ordination of women from the Church.
She asserts the reality of ordination of women apart from the institutional Church. But she wants acknowledgment… pleads for affirmation. If this is all about allowing God, etc., why should ordination be necessary at all? Or… is this about imposing a new institution and new politics?
We have to ask: In Jamie’s new church community why should there have to be ordination? Who will be the new class of the oppressed?
You see what she does, dear readers. She wants recognition from the very Church she hates. She empowers the Church even
as she demeans it and seeks to reassign its power. She recognizes that male/Vatican recognition is essential. Men have to approve her and her project.
This is what happens when you get the coveted MDiv from a secularized protestant school, and you spend your life on the fringe in utter confusion about who you are with people who don’t understand what they say they believe.
They want to "allow God to act". Fine. Do that. If Jamie Manson wants lay-lead eucharistic communities fine! Do that! You don’t need Rome for that. You don’t need ordination for that. But… this is about who has power.
To whom shall the new regime of their new institution do the violence?
This is a new low for NCR.
Just remember that this is the fringe.